New Madrid County Central rode its big-play offense to the state championship game this year, putting up 39 points per game.
Now they get to face a defense that has given up just 70 points all season. In a battle for the Class 3A title, NMCC and undefeated Platte County meet today at the TWA Dome in St. Louis.
"They've got about seven state champion wrestlers on their team," said NMCC coach Steve Rogers. "It's going to be their toughness and physical play against our speed and athleticism. It's something our kids will never forget."
Platte County (13-0) is no stranger to games of this magnitude. The Pirates have a strong tradition, and have been at the top of Missouri 3A for several years.
"They haven't been ranked No. 1 all year for nothing," said Rogers. "They are a good, good football team. Their special teams are excellent, their defense is tough and their offense is diversified. I'm real proud of the job our guys and our coaching staff have done. We're going up there to do the best we can and let the chips fall where they may. Stranger things have happened."
NMCC (12-1) qualified for its first state championship game by defeating Salem 43-23 in last Saturday's semifinals, while Platte County beat Carl Junction 36-6.
"The kids have worked hard all the way through," said Platte County coach Chip Sherman. "We're just anxious to play in a state championship game again and see how we do."
The opposition is averaging just 76 yards of offense against Platte County's defense. Noseguard Aaron Bernard (5-10, 215) leads the team in tackles with 86, recording six sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Defensive end Travis Frogge (6-2, 240) is the top pass rusher, making 13 sacks with 83 tackles. End Tyler Warner (6-2, 230) is nearly as productive on the other side, recording 10 sacks with 67 tackles.
"Their defense looks pretty stout to me," said Rogers. "It's a big challenge for our kids, but they're ready for it."
And Platte County has an outstanding offense as well. Quarterback Rob Campbell (6-0, 170) is also the team's punter, although he has been used in that capacity just 14 times this year.
The Pirates have outscored their 13 opponents 528 to 70.
"We're balanced," said Sherman. "We throw the ball as much as we run it. We take what people give us. That's been our M.O. the last 10 years or so. If you throw a bunch of guys up in a box, we're going to wing it up over your head or something else."
Offensively the Pirates are led by running back Zach Sherman (5-8, 190), who has gained 2,691 yards on 328 carries with 18 touchdowns. He averages 8.2 yards per carry and 207 per game.
Sherman has been starting for his father's team since he was a freshman, and is currently No. 2 in Missouri career rushing with over 7,000 yards.
Running back Matt Prout (6-0, 220) has carried the ball 57 times this year for 468 yards. At quarterback, Campbell has thrown for 1,272 yards on 80-of-141 passing. He has 22 touchdowns with just three interceptions. The receiving corps in balanced.
David Poolman (6-0, 185) leads the way with 555 yards and nine TDs on 24 catches. Chase Verdoorn (6-0, 195) has 25 receptions for 483 with eight TDs, and Cory Williams (6-0, 205) has 10 for 102 with three scores.
"They run a little bit of everything," said Rogers. "Their basic set is an I-formation, but they'll come out with no backs or with a double slot. They threw it 17 times against Carl Junction. They've got a good quarterback, two good wide receivers and a big tight end. They've got a very good offense and a formidable defense. It makes for a real good ball team."
Running back Dereke Tipler (5-10, 185) leads the charge for NMCC, having rushed for 2,090 yards. He has caught 13 passes for 262 yards, and has 36 TDs all together.
Desmond Sims (6-3, 195) has also been effective as a runner and receiver, with 620 yards on the ground and 508 through the air. Trigger man Brian Murph (6-1, 175) has been on a tear in the playoffs, turning in his best games of the season. He has thrown for 1,163 yards and rushed for 700.
"We've got to stop the big play," said Sherman. "They're awesome athletes. They've got tremendous speed and they're tremendous athletically. We're going to have to be very smart when we play them. They're the fastest team we've played, there's no doubt about that. We are very aware of their quarterback, the running back and their receivers. We're going to have to know where those guys are at all times, because they are just one play away from taking it to the house at all times."
Added Rogers,"We've got nothing to lose. We're going up against the No. 1 ranked team, the pressure is on them. We pose some different problems than what they've seen in the past. Like I've said about every team we've played in the playoffs so far, I don't think they've seen our speed and athleticism."